Hand, Wrist, Arm and Shoulder Arthritis

About 1 in 4 adults are diagnosed with arthritis – a common condition resulting from wear and tear or inflammation in one or several joints. Although classically thought of as a disease that affects only the bones and joints, arthritis is actually a more complex process that also affects the surrounding soft tissues such as cartilage, ligaments, and nerves. The most common symptom of arthritis is pain at the joint, which can worsen with age. Other symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling or redness around the joint
  • Physical joint deformities
  • Decreased range of motion

What We Treat

Arthritis is a progressive condition that can get worse without proper diagnosis and treatment. At the Center for Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery, we offer the most advanced non-surgical and surgical treatment options for arthritis in the hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. 

DIP/PIP or Finger Arthritis

A degenerative joint condition that commonly affects the distal interphalangeal (DIP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) finger joints. 

Shoulder and Elbow Arthritis

Stiffness and discomfort in the shoulder and elbow joints due to inflammation and cartilage degeneration.

 First CMC, Basilar Joint, or Base-of-Thumb Arthritis

Osteoarthritis of the base of the thumb, also known as first carpometacarpal joint (CMC) or basilar joint arthritis is the second most common form of arthritis in the hand.

Wrist Arthritis

Pain, swelling, and limited movement in the wrist joint, often caused by inflammation and wear-and-tear.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Hands

Chronic inflammation in the joints of the hands, leading to joint damage, deformity, and reduced function due to the body's immune system attacking its tissues.

Chronic Joint Pain

Persistent discomfort and reduced dexterity in the hands due to ongoing inflammation, wear-and-tear, or underlying conditions, causing prolonged joint pain and stiffness.

Arthritis Tre

Accurately diagnosing and treating a patient with arthritis involves identifying the root cause of their disease and treating not only the joint, but the underlying medical problems as well. 

Treatments for Mild Arthritis



For patients with osteoarthritis, acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended to use sparingly to alleviate symptoms. There are no approved medications currently that slow the progression of osteoarthritis. For rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, medicines like NSAIDs or acetaminophen may be used. There are also medications that will slow the progression and alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®), leflunomide (Arava®), prescribed by a rheumatologist.


Splints can provide support to the affected joint and lessen strain, as well as provide joint alignment. Your doctors and/or hand therapist will discuss splinting or bracing options and how often and how long you should wear them. You may be a candidate for a same day brace to be fabricated.

Physical Therapy

We refer our patients to certified hand therapists (CHTs) who have achieved the highest level of training in hand therapy. These therapists have completed their training in occupational therapy and then further sub specialized and become certified as hand therapists.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections may also be an option for some patients to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Using X-ray guidance, arthritic joints are targeted with a fine needle, and a mixture of anesthetic and steroid medication is injected to provide pain relief. 

Treatments for Moderate to Severe Arthritis

Joint Denervation Surgery

Joint denervation surgery is a new and unique treatment option that combats arthritis by eliminating the associated neurologic pain pathway. This procedure addresses the “supply” of pain to the brain rather than the joint itself. 


This minimally invasive surgery involves inserting a small camera into the joint to inspect and repair damaged cartilage and bone. It can clean out debris, remove inflamed tissue, and smooth damaged surfaces.

Joint Fusion

Damaged joints are fused together with plates, screws, rods or pins so they stop moving painfully. Multiple joint fusions are available in the fingers, hands, and wrist.

Joint Replacement

Diseased joint surfaces are removed and replaced with artificial implants made of metal, plastic or ceramic. Multiple joints within the upper extremity have options for joint replacement.

Soft Tissue Repair

Tendons and ligaments around arthritic joints may become stretched or torn and require repair through techniques like tissue grafting or tightening.


Inflamed joint lining (synovium) is surgically removed to reduce swelling and pain.


HUES Surgeons

Don’t wait for the next flare-up.


What are the different types of arthritis?

There are different types of arthritis that people experience. The two most common types of arthritis are inflammatory arthritis and Osteoarthritis. 

Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, which starts with the lining of the joints.  The surrounding soft tissues including the ligaments and joint capsule, become inflamed causing a cascade that eventually leads to joint destruction and deformity.  

Osteoarthritis is typical wear and tear with age. It is often associated with cartilage breakdown over time, eventually leading to “bone on bone grinding”.  In this scenario, the joint surfaces wear down and the resulting irritation creates an inflammatory response to the surrounding tissues, resulting in painful, swollen joints.

What causes arthritis?

The condition can develop due to several factors, including wear and tear on the joint, infection, trauma, or an underlying medical condition.

What are the risk factors for developing arthritis?

The risk of developing arthritis increases with age, as joint cartilage naturally wears down over time. Other key risk factors include joint injury, obesity, genetics, and occupations involving repetitive motions. Additionally, certain diseases like diabetes, gout, and autoimmune disorders can increase susceptibility to arthritis through systemic inflammation or joint damage.

How is arthritis diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have arthritis, they will perform a physical exam of your joints to look for key signs like swelling, redness, warmth, limited range of motion, and tenderness. Other tests may include:

Blood tests: to look for inflammatory markers associated with autoimmune types of arthritis. 

Imaging tests: such as x-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds of your joints to look for damage and rule out other conditions.